That’s my review, right there. Yes. I approve of this game. “Attack of the earthlings” is everything games should be more of nowadays. It’s honest, charming, familiar without being derivative, and without a shadow of a doubt a whole lot of fun.
Coming to us from Team Junkfish, a little studio on Scotland whose only other title is Monstrum, a roguelike survival horror games, so we’re reaching peak indie here. But, the story goes that after working hard on that serious, scary game, they wanted to make something fun and light-hearted. What did they come up with? A fixed-difficulty turn-based strategy game about terrifying aliens. Well, it’s a start.
Here’s the twist, though; those terrifying aliens aren’t Xenomorphs, or Zerg swarms, or even Wookies. Nope, they’re from the South of England. Really.
In the distant future, the Galactoil mining company lands a giant drill on an alien planet, destroying the homes of the residents; residents that just happen to be 8-foot tall insects that can multiply at an alarming rate by consuming the flesh of both humans and their own dead. Which, last I checked, was how Jamie Oliver was saying Chicken McNuggets were made.
Anyways, the Gameplay. Fairly simple, it’s all played on a grid with a set of units taking turns to move. You control an alien queen, who looks like the kind of Xenomorph you’d get if you commissioned a model of one based only on vague recollection. The queen dies, you lose. Otherwise, your job is to sneak through a maze of guards and vision cones, and spawning new aliens (who are birthed instantly and fully grown, nature sure is beautiful). You set traps and ambushes, avoid being seen where possible, and progress towards different goals each level- with each floor giving different opportunities to use the mechanics in new ways. One separates the queen from the swarm, meaning your weaker units have to navigate in an environment where killing anything is gonna be damn difficult. One locks the queen into a several-turn action of breaking down a door as enemies approach from all sides, forcing your other units to defend her. One has you infest the mind of a human and sneak around the office greeting passers-by as you tried to find, which for me was a genuine highlight.
And what really made that the highlight wasn’t the Gameplay quirk for that level- no, it was the writing, which is the game’s real strong suit. It’s not a game about high drama, or severe tension, or even high-brow satire. No, what this game does best- better than any game I can think of, is classic British silliness. I couldn’t fathom if a game like this came out of mainland Europe, Asia, or America. Because this is what would come out if you locked the full roster of Monty Python in a room with a development kit and a copy of Xcom: Enemy Unknown. Each level isn’t just a level, but rather a different floor on the office- you start in engineering, and work your way through management, finance, all the way to the CEO’s office. And that’s not for show- the sheer contrast between the horrific creatures you control and the mundanity of office life creates an atmosphere of pure disjointed hilarity. If you regard yourself as having a really stupid sense of humour, you’ll have masses of fun with this game.
The game just oozes charm, unafraid to do anything it deems too stupid. This game is fun, not high art, not a deep sandbox, not a revolutionary design experiment, it’s fun. At this point, I’d like you all reading to please remember the number ‘7’ for me, it’s important for later. That ok? Good.
There’s just one problem: the difficulty is completely static. What you get is the game, no matter if you’re breezing through it or butting your head against the wall. No difficulty settings, gameplay solutions to help you out if you’re down or hinder you if you’re doing well, the gameplay loops are purely positive. If you’re doing well, you’ll likely continue to do well. Do worse than the level designer expected, and it’s curtains for you. Try the level over again. I, sadly, was sat firmly in the ‘shit cunt’ camp at times: the levels are a good length in places, and rather short in others. But for me, it felt like some were dragging and others were just the right length- when it came down to it, it took me several hours to pass a level which I ultimately finished in under 10 minutes. And given that there are no set checkpoints, if you forget to save at the right time (which, given that sometimes touching invisible triggers in the level will begin actions without your prior knowledge, is impossible to do consistently), you’re entirely reliant on whenever your last auto-save is, meaning you sometimes have to choose between two equally shit situations or start the level anew.
And the writing doesn’t change with repeat attempts – There aren’t random dialogue lines, alternate dialogue, or even different ways to navigate a level. It’s just linear progression that, on your second, third, fifth, or tenth attempt will drag. Comedy dies in repetition, and all you’re left with is acceptable, if a little bare-bones gameplay, which only gets more frustrating with each repeat. If it wasn’t my job to write a review, there were several moments I would have quit. And then I wouldn’t quit, beat that challenge, and remember why I’d been enjoying it for so long in the first place. But don’t let that scare you- I am, after all, crap at strategy games of all kinds. Not so crap I couldn’t play the game, but crap enough that it became a grind. You’ll probably fare better, and the experience for even me was well worth it in the end.
Overall, I’d award this game the number I asked you to remember earlier out of 10. Because I want you to hear exactly what this game is before you buy it, in detail. But if you must know: yes. Reccomended.
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